Blog In France Goes Swiss

Chris and I have recently come back from a few days in Switzerland, where we stayed with our lovely friends Paul and Michael in a bustling village in the canton of Solothurn. It was our first holiday together for fourteen years, and the first child-free one since we became parents twenty-six years ago! Leaving the farm in the safe hands of Caiti and Rors, we loaded up the car with suitcases and bikes, and headed off.

After the initial tedious drag across central France along 80 kph roads, which were frequently 70 kph due to all the roadworks going on, the scenery and driving soon became more interesting. It took about seven hours to get to the Swiss border, where no one wanted to see our passports but did want to sell us the vignette you need to use Swiss motorways. So, suitably stickered (although I think I may have put it in the wrong place on the windscreen) we drove through a series of long tunnels, quickly admiring the Jurassic scenery in-between disappearing into the gloom. Paul’s village is in the Lützel river valley, and has a busy but friendly feel to it. It’s set in dramatic scenery of mountains to either side. Steep mountains, as we now know from cycling up several of them!

Our first ride took us up Passwang. This was an 11 km climb with an increase of 491 m in altitude from our starting point, with gradients of 9% in places. That might not sound huge, but trust me, it is when you’re ascending under your own steam. The average was 4.5%. (Info from the climbbybike.com website.) Michael had driven us here the previous evening so we could suss it out, and taken us to a viewpoint from where it’s sometimes possible to see the Alps. We couldn’t that day, but we did on Monday. I’m fairly sure I saw the peak of the Jungfrau popping out through the clouds.

We spent the afternoon geocaching. Fortunately Paul and Michael share our enthusiasm for the sport. In fact, they’re possibly even keener as they have more finds than us! There are lots of geocaches there are hidden in their area and we discovered some on a super walk, starting from their house. We climbed the left-hand hill in the first photo.

Next day we tackled another climb. We turned off the Passwang road and headed up and over to Nunningen. We had to carry our bikes across some roadworks, something we’d done a good few times during our various cycling holidays in the past.

This ride was a nice circuit, with steep ups and downs to make thing interesting. In the afternoon we met up with Paul and Michael at Reigoldswil for what proved to be the highlight of the trip: a trip up the Wasserfallen in a gondola (a small cable car) and then a descent by scooter. Oh boy, but it was brilliant! It was so brilliant, we did it twice. The smooth gondola ride provided some wonderful views.

Once at the top, we were each kitted out with a scooter and a helmet and then we set off down a ski track back to the lower cable car station. It was sensational. It didn’t take long at all to get used to the scooter and soon we were all flying along.

Before our second scooter trip, we fortified ourselves with hot chocolate and coffee at the café and sat out on the mountainside terrace. Then we kitted up and zoomed down the mountainside again.

On our last day in Switzerland, for fun we decided to climb two mountains. We cycled up to Grindel, dropped down into Barschwil, which was lower than our original starting point, and then climbed up to Kleinlützel and Huggerwald before retuning home. We were just short of climbing a kilometre in elevation (or heightmetres).

We popped to the shops in the afternoon, feeling somewhat weary, to get some edible souvenirs for the children, and then passed our last enjoyable and companionable evening with Paul and Michael.

And then it was time to come home. We had a fantastic time, and are really grateful to our kind and generous hosts for looking after us so luxuriously. Caiti and Rors had done a wonderful job in holding the fort during our absence, which they’d rather enjoyed. All animals and poultry were in fine form.

Our little trip has renewed our appetite for holidays, and it definitely won’t be another fourteen years before our next one!

We are so grateful to Paul and Michael for putting us up, and putting up with us. They were marvellous hosts and spoiled us with kipferl (croissants) and bread rolls fresh from the bakery every breakfast time, glorious coffee and delicious home-cooked dinners, as well as introducing us to their beautiful part of Switzerland. We have many fond memories of our time with them.